Triggers have the capability to knock recovering addicts off the road to recovery, which makes them one of the most dangerous things you can encounter upon leaving rehab. A trigger is anything that an addicted person’s brain associates with getting “high” that may cause cravings or lead to relapse. Triggers can pop up anytime, and often arise without warning. They could be stress related to work, family and even depression and anxiety. In some cases, a trigger could be a location, event, etc. Really, a trigger could be just about anything that the person associated with using the drug or performing the activity that is the subject of their addiction.

There are four types of relapse triggers that you must know of. These include the following:

  • Mental triggers
  • Environmental triggers
  • Social triggers
  • Emotional triggers

There are also external and internal triggers. These both affect a person in many ways.

  • External triggers are often caused by people, activities, places and objects that provoke thoughts and cravings that are connected with the prior substance use. Those who are in recovery must stay away from this type of trigger as it will remind them of their past drug use. They must also learn how to fight these triggers especially when they are in in a bad situation.
  • Internal triggers on the other hand are more challenging compared to external triggers. This is because internal triggers are usually caused by thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with the drug abuse, and therefore can occur at any time. If by chance these triggers arise, a recovering addict may begin to exhibit behaviors that could hinder their progress. Internal triggers can usually cause one to crave and use illicit substances again.

Below are the most common triggers that a recovering addict must identify in order to avoid going into relapse.

  1. When you are under stress – Everyone has experienced stress at least once in their life. In fact, most people have dealt with extreme stress, sometimes over long periods of time. However, stress can be extra dangerous for recovering addicts. Stressful encounters can easily trigger a recovering addict. It could be something as simple as not being able to agree with someone, to being stuck in traffic, to moving to a new place. That is why it is important to learn coping skills to help you manage these stressful situations to avoid slipping into relapse. The key to managing stress effectively is through stress management techniques, which you will likely learn in a treatment program. This allows you to be as proactive as possible in overcoming stressful situations.
  2. When emotions are running wild – one of the most common triggers that addicts deal with is their constant battle with their emotions. This could be a powerful relapse trigger if you are not proactive about managing your emotions. Negative emotions like being sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, etc can cause you to crave for something to use in order to avoid feeling these emotions. Keep in mind that negative emotions are very uncomfortable and oftentimes, seeking to use drugs or alcohol can help “calm” these emotions down. Being too positive can also be risky, as you might lose your ability to say no. So make sure that your emotions are always in the right direction before anything else.
  3. When you are hungry, angry, lonely and tired (HALT) – this could also be considered as emotional or internal triggers that are not met, and these could render you vulnerable to relapse. You can avoid this by ensuring that you eat plenty of food, drink water on a regular basis, socialize with friends and family, and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Don’t overwork yourself, skip sleep or hole up inside your house for too long without human contact.
  4. When you have physical illness or mental illness – pain felt when you have a physical injury can be debilitating. This is also one of the reasons why people can turn to drugs and alcohol, which can act as temporary bandaids to ease chronic pain. Developing a mental health illness like depression or anxiety can also cause a person to turn to drugs and alcohol.
  5. When you isolate yourself from social circles – purposely isolating yourself from others can trigger an addiction to resurface. It is important to not be afraid to reach out to others when you’re feeling sad or hopeless. Avoiding talking with other people because you don’t want to scare or upset them will just cause you (and them!) more harm in the long run. The best way to avoid this is to become a part of a local support group. Attending a peer support group regularly gives you the benefit of having new friends and peers to go to in times of need. It doesn’t always have to be your local support group, you can attend any social club you like. This way you are preoccupied rather than all alone.
  6. When you start on new work responsibilities – starting a new job or getting promoted can be a form of stress. Sure you are empowered by your new position but at the same time, it can also be overwhelming especially when the work is too much. Around this time, you must make sure that you don’t risk your health for your job. Learn ways on how you can be productive without getting too stressed and turn to alcohol or drugs to keep you going.
  7. When you become too confident about your recovery – being sober for a few months can feel absolutely amazing for most people who have been struggling with addiction for years. It is around this time that one feels more confident about their new found freedom and much more in control of the situation. If you feel like this, don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing to be confident about your achievements. However, it can be dangerous if you begin thinking you can control your drug or alcohol consumption without fully relapsing.
  8. When you enter a new relationship – entering into a romantic relationship means sharing a lot of yourself with another person. However, if this person hasn’t made a commitment to being sober alongside you, this can spell trouble. Not only that, the risk of breaking up and getting hurt can also pose a threat to your sobriety as you may turn to harmful substances to cope. If the relationship you have breaks down, it is most likely that you will resume drinking and using drugs as a means to escape the emotional pain this break up has caused you and that, my friend, is your ticket to relapse.
  9. When you often think about the past and how you used drugs/alcohol like a rock star would – this might seem silly, but it’s true that as you age, your desire to relive your glory days while using drugs and alcohol could increase. This is especially true if you partook in using drugs and alcohol at an early age. Reminiscing about the past and the crazy parties you went to and all the wild nights you had is a slippery slope. But it’s important to remember that you can still go to parties and fun events and have an amazing time — WITHOUT being high or drunk.

These are the common triggers that addicts deal with. If you are experiencing any of the ones mentioned above, it’s best to seek intervention before they become overwhelming. Being in recovery is hard work, and there will be a lot of ups and downs before your life finally stabilizes for good. So while you are on the right track, do your best to stay motivated and avoid triggers as much as possible.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.